On 12 September 2016, the junta’s National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) Head Order No. 55/2016 was published in the Royal Gazette. The order states that all cases involving crimes against national security, which involve Articles 107 to 118 of the Criminal Code and some other NCPO orders, will no longer be tried in military courts. The order was issued under Article 44 of the Interim Charter, which grants the junta absolute power.
According to the order, the change is possible now that the country is at peace and Thai people have cooperated adequately with the junta administration. This cooperation was reflected in the landslide result in the 7 August referendum that approved the junta-backed draft charter. It is, therefore, no longer necessary to try civilians in military courts.
This order puts an end to military court trials of those charged under the lèse-majesté and sedition laws, Articles 112 and 116 of the Criminal Code respectively. These were the laws most commonly used to prosecute junta opponents.
However, this order does not cover lawsuits initiated before the order was issued. This means that all cases of crimes against national security brought before military courts before 12 September will not be affected by the order.
According to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, a human rights advocacy group, 68 civilians have been charged under the lèse-majesté law and 60 have been charged under the sedition law since the 2014 coup. 1,811 civilians have been tried in military courts during the same period.
The order also fails to cover cases of arms possession and breaches of NCPO Orders No. 3/2015, the junta’s public gathering ban, and No. 13/2016, which gives military officers extra-judicial power. Crimes involving these laws still have to be tried in military courts.